Your Guide To Japantown San Jose: Best Things To Do In Japantown - Travels With Elle (2023)

Japantown San Jose is a vibrant and historic neighborhood located in the heart of San Jose just a few blocks north of San Jose’s City Hall. Truly, no visit to the South Bay Area is complete without at least spending a few moments in Japantown!

With its rich cultural heritage and diverse storefronts housing mom-and-pop shops and other local businesses, Japantown is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of Japanese culture and cuisine!

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best things to do in Japantown San Jose, from exploring its historic landmarks to trying out some of the most delicious food and drink offerings. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a longtime resident, there’s always something new to discover in Japantown San Jose.

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Table of Contents

A Brief History Of Japantowns In The USA

Japantowns in the USA have an interesting history that dates back to the late 19th century. The first Japantown was established in San Francisco in the 1860s, as Japanese immigrants began to settle in the area. Over time, Japantowns began to emerge in other major cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago (though some of these were short-lived).

These communities were formed as a way for Japanese immigrants to maintain their cultural identity and support one another in a new, unfamiliar, and often hostile environment. Japantowns were also places where Japanese Americans could gather and celebrate their heritage through festivals, cultural events, and religious ceremonies.

However, the Japanese American community faced significant challenges during World War II, when thousands of Japanese-Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in internment camps. Many Japantowns were left empty as a result, and some were never able to fully recover.

Despite these challenges, a few Japantowns have continued to thrive — the ones in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose! Crazy to imagine, but Japantown San Jose is one of the last three authentic Japantowns in the United States.

These days, these communities continue to be vibrant cultural centers that celebrate Japanese history, art, and cuisine, and serve as important reminders of the resilience and strength of the Japanese American community.

Where Is Japantown San Jose?

Your Guide To Japantown San Jose: Best Things To Do In Japantown - Travels With Elle (1)
(Video) Exploring Japantown in San Jose California

Japantown is located five blocks north of San Jose’s City Hall. The center of Japantown is North Fifth and Jackson Streets, but its boundaries reach from First to Seventh Streets, Empire Street to the south and Hedding Avenue to the north.

If you don’t have a car, you can get here via public transportation. Japantown is closest to the Japantown/Ayer VTA Lightrail Station.

Best Things To Do In Japantown San Jose

Visit the Japanese American Museum of San Jose

One of the most important cultural institutions in San Jose Japantown is the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. This museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and culture of the Japanese American community in the San Jose area.

Visitors to the museum can explore a variety of exhibits and displays that showcase the rich and diverse history of Japanese Americans in the area, from the early immigrant experience to the challenges faced during World War II and beyond.

One of the most popular exhibits at the museum is the permanent collection of artifacts and photographs that document the lives and experiences of Japanese Americans in the San Jose area.

The museum is open Thursday through Sunday, 12pm – 4 pm. Admission for adults is $8 and there are discounts for students, seniors, etc.

Explore the Japantown Farmers Market

Held every Sunday from 8:00am to 12:00pm during the warmer months, the Japantown farmers market offers a wide variety of fresh produce, artisanal foods, and handmade crafts. It’s a great place to shop for locally-grown and produced goods, as well as to support local farmers and businesses!

The Japantown Farmer’s Market is located at Gordon Biersch Brewery.

Dine at one of the many Japanese restaurants

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Japantown San Jose is home to several excellent Japanese restaurants, including Kazoo, Hukilau, Kaita Restaurant, Gombei, and Minato. You can enjoy delicious sushi, ramen, and other Japanese specialties while taking in the atmosphere of the neighborhood!

Shuei-Do Manju Shop

Your Guide To Japantown San Jose: Best Things To Do In Japantown - Travels With Elle (4)

They bake fresh manju daily and everything is made by hand, the old-fashioned way. Some of my favorite offerings include the kinako (soybean powder) mochi, butter mochi, and the chi chi dango (the flavors rotate so you never know what you can get til you get in line!).

(Video) Best Things to Do in San Jose, California

Pro Tip: You’re going to want to get here as soon as they open because it’s quite a popular place! On weekends, chances are there’s already a line forming even before they open!

Grab Coffee at Roy’s Station

If you’ve arrived to Jtown early without having started your morning off with coffee, head to Roy’s Station! Roy’s Station is an independent and solar-powered coffee shop that serves Santa Cruz’s Verve espresso and coffee drinks.

Not a coffee drinker? They also proudly serve Satori loose-leaf teas. All from a converted Mobil gas station!

There are seats indoors and outdoors, so I’d recommend grabbing a refreshment and enjoying some of that SJ sunlight from the outdoor patio for a few moments before continuing your stroll through the neighborhood.

Thrift Shopping At Classic Loot

Classic Loot offers awesome women’s clothing, purses, pins, jewelry, and goodies you can’t find anywhere else. They offer both handmade goodies as well as highly-curated secondhand items — all of which are adorable as heck!

If you’ve got stuff to sell, you’ll be happy to know they’re a buy/sell/trade shop!

Get Shave Ice At Pau Hana Shave Ice Co.

Your Guide To Japantown San Jose: Best Things To Do In Japantown - Travels With Elle (5)

Missing the taste of Hawaii? Well, thank gosh SJ’s Japantown has its very own shave ice joint!

This family-owned business specializes in Hawaiian-style shave ice, which is made by shaving a block of ice into a fine, fluffy texture and then topped with flavored syrups and other toppings.

If you’re thinking “how good can shave ice on the mainland be?” — let me tell you. The shaved ice texture is very similar to that of Hawaii — expect a fruity, soft, and creamy concoction topped with the freshest mochi around!

What sets Pau Hana Shave Ice Co. apart is its commitment to using high-quality, natural ingredients in its syrups and toppings. You can choose from a variety of flavors, including classic flavors like strawberry and blue raspberry, as well as more tropical options like lychee and passionfruit.

Support The Local Gift Shops And Specialty Stores

Your Guide To Japantown San Jose: Best Things To Do In Japantown - Travels With Elle (6)

Shop at one of the many specialty stores while you’re here! Japantown San Jose is home to several specialty stores that offer unique and hard-to-find items.

(Video) TOP 10 Things to do in San Jose California 2023!

You can shop for Japanese snacks and candies at Nijiya Market, browse for Jpop culture gifts at Moment JTown, or find the perfect traditional Japanese gift at Nikkei Traditions and Gifts Kogura (where you’ll find matcha sets, stationery, and lucky cats galore!).

Your Guide To Japantown San Jose: Best Things To Do In Japantown - Travels With Elle (7)

Night Market at Gordon Biersch Brewing

One of the most popular weekly events in San Jose Japantown is the Night Market at Gordon Biersch Brewing, which takes place on Thursdays every summer. This outdoor market features a variety of food trucks, live music performances, and local artisans selling their crafts!

Visitors can sample a wide range of delicious foods (different options every week), from Japanese street food like takoyaki and yakitori to Korean barbecue and Hawaiian poke bowls. There are also plenty of sweet treats to indulge in, including shave ice, mochi, and freshly baked pastries!

In addition to the food, the Night Market at Gordon Biersch Brewing also features live music performances from local musicians and bands, creating a festive and lively atmosphere that is perfect for a summer evening out.

For those looking to do some shopping, there are also a variety of local artisans selling their handmade goods, including jewelry, clothing, and home decor. After eating, be sure to spend some time browsing the stalls to find unique and one-of-a-kind items to take home as souvenirs!

Get Lunch Plates And Poke At Santo Market

Your Guide To Japantown San Jose: Best Things To Do In Japantown - Travels With Elle (8)

Santo Market is a local institution in San Jose’s Japantown and has been a fixture in the community for over 70 years. This family-owned market has become a beloved destination for locals and visitors alike, known for its wide selection of Japanese and Asian groceries, fresh produce, and prepared foods.

One of the things that makes Santo Market unique is its commitment to providing high-quality, authentic Japanese products. From fresh poke bowls and sashimi to traditional Japanese snacks and candies, Santo Market offers a taste of Japan that is hard to find elsewhere in the Bay Area.

In addition to its grocery offerings, Santo Market is also known for its hot food deli, which serves up a variety of Japanese and Hawaiian lunch plates. You can enjoy everything from teriyaki chicken and laulau plate lunches to spam musubi and poke bowls, all made fresh to order!

Your Guide To Japantown San Jose: Best Things To Do In Japantown - Travels With Elle (9)

For many in the Japantown community, Santo Market is more than just a grocery store – it’s a beloved institution that has played an important role in shaping the identity and character of the neighborhood!

Pro Tip: To get your hands on their highly coveted strawberry mochi, you need to arrive when they open. Otherwise, they sell out within 20-30 minutes! At the time of writing, the mochi is available on Tuesdays and Saturdays,

(Video) Top 10 Hidden Places to Visit in San Jose, California | USA - English

Attend the Obon Festival

This annual festival is held in July and celebrates the Japanese Buddhist tradition of honoring ancestors. The festival features food, music, dancing, and other cultural activities that showcase the rich history and traditions of Japantown San Jose.

Be sure to visit Japantown’s site to keep up to date on the latest festival dates.

Sing your heart out at 7 Bamboo Lounge

Looking for something fun to do at night in Japantown San Jose? Why not try karaoke?

7 Bamboo is one of the oldest and most nostalgic karaoke lounges in the Bay Area — since the 1970’s! If you want a night full of great vibes, then you must pop in for an hour or two!

They offer karaoke every night of the week they’re open, so you can sing to your heart’s content! You can sing karaoke on stage for free, and there’s a good song selection to choose from too.

Worried about being judged? Don’t be! The crowd is very encouraging because, at the end of the day, everyone is there to have fun!

As this is a small venue, space can fill up rather quickly. Arrive early for first-come first-served seating.

Attend a cultural event

In addition to the Obon Festival, which is held every summer to honor ancestors and loved ones who have passed away, there are many other events that draw visitors from near and far.

One such event is the Nikkei Matsuri Festival, which takes place in the spring and celebrates the Japanese American community’s contributions to the city of San Jose. This festival features traditional Japanese music and dance performances, as well as food vendors, arts and crafts, and cultural exhibits.

Another popular event is the Aki Matsuri, which is held in the fall and celebrates the harvest season. This festival also features traditional Japanese music and dance performances, as well as food vendors, handicraft vendors, and cultural exhibits.

Throughout the year, there are also many other events and activities that take place in San Jose Japantown, including art exhibits, film screenings, and cultural workshops.Be sure to visit Japantown’s site to stay up to date on the latest festival dates.

Got more time in the San Jose area? Check out our complete guide to the South Bay and discover all the fun things there are to do here!

Where To Stay In San Jose, CA

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Where is the best Japantown in USA? ›

San Francisco's Japantown has been the center of the Bay Area's Japanese and Japanese American community since 1906. It continues to an exciting place to explore and find authentic Japanese culture, restaurants and shops.

Does San Jose have a Japantown? ›

Japantown (Japanese: 日本町; Nihonmachi), commonly known as J Town, is a historic cultural district of San Jose, California, north of Downtown San Jose.

What is the No 1 city in Japan? ›

Nevertheless, Tokyo retained its position as Japan's largest city, which it had held since the mid 17th century. Tokushima's last appearance in the top ten, and last appearance of any municipality from the island of Shikoku.

Where is the prettiest part is Japan? ›

Mt Fuji, Yamanashi

Japan's crown jewel and arguably the most beautiful place in the country, Mt Fuji is a must for any visitor. There are plenty of places to see the grand mountain, but the views from Arakurayama Sengen Park, which boasts the majestic Chureito Pagoda, and from Lake Kawaguchi best capture its beauty.

What is San Jose city known for? ›

It is part of the rice granary of the Philippines. Besides rice, the city also produces vegetables, fruits, and onions. It is now a leading producer of onions in the country. Every year the Tanduyong Festival is held in April coinciding with the annual fiesta to celebrate this.

What time does Japantown close? ›

Re: Japantown opening hours? Generally the shops close by 7:00 PM; some 6:00PM. Grocery stores close at 7:00 PM, but some non-food related shops may have more extended hours until 8:00PM.

Does San Jose have a little Italy? ›

Little Italy was the first Italian immigrant neighborhood in San Jose, as one of three, and now stands as the last. Though Little Italy is only a few blocks long, you'll find no shortage of delicious food and Italian pride here. The neighborhood is crowned by an iconic 31 foot Little Italy sign, perfect for pictures.

Which city is rich in Japan? ›

The city of Tokyo, Japan is considered to be the richest city in the world. The GDP of Tokyo is $1.52 trillion.

How do you say hi in Japanese language? ›

Konnichiwa – こんにちは

Konnichiwa is used broadly throughout the day and is what you'll usually see translated as simply “hello” as you learn Japanese.

What language is spoken in Japan? ›

99.2% of people in Japan have Japanese as their first language. There are still a few lesser-spoken languages across the islands, including: Amami, Kyukyu, Kikai and Miyako. The Ainu language (spoken in Hokkaido) is critically endangered as a language, and only 15 people identified as speaking in in the late 1990s.

What is the best month to go to Japan? ›

The best time to visit Japan is between March and May and between September and November as it's both warm and dry between these periods. However, the joys of springtime and the iconic blooming of the cherry blossoms in Japan are no secret, which means you'll be sharing the space with plenty of other travellers.

Where do the rich vacation in Japan? ›

Since Karuizawa was developed 140 years ago, it has been the summer getaway of choice for the rich and the royal of Japan. The types of people who buy prams and booties for their dogs.

Is San Jose a walkable city? ›

Walking. At 181 sq miles, San Jose isn't exactly a walkable city but it is pedestrian-friendly. Within individual neighborhoods and downtown, you'll find wide sidewalks, plenty of crosswalks and leafy streets that offer some shade from the sun.

Is San Jose worth seeing? ›

San Jose, California, Might Be the Country's Most Underrated Tourist Destination — and It Gets 300 Days of Sunshine. With 300 sunny days a year and a rich mix of cultural, historical, and natural landmarks, California's San Jose is so much more than the capital of Silicon Valley.

What day is Little Tokyo closed? ›

Hours are 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday; noon to 10:30 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Closed Tuesday.

What day are things closed in Japan? ›

General business hours in Japan are weekdays 9 to 5. Many offices also open at least half the day on Saturday, but are generally closed Sunday. Banks are open weekdays from 9 until 4 or 5. As with shops, there's a trend toward longer and later opening hours.

What time does everything open in Japan? ›

In general, large shops and department stores are open daily from 10:00 to 20:00. Smaller stores and shops around tourist attractions may have shorter hours. Most stores are open on weekends and national holidays (except January 1 when many stores close).

What is the most Italian city in America? ›

New York City is home to the largest Italian-American population in North America and third largest Italian population outside of Italy, according to the 2000 census. See also Italians in New York City for more info.

Is Little Italy costly? ›

Average Cost

₹1,700 for two people (approx.)

What is the most Japanese city in America? ›

As of October 2022, Los Angeles was host to the highest number of Japanese residents among cities outside of Japan with about 65 thousand Japanese residents.

Which U.S. cities have a little Tokyo? ›

The Japanese community in Los Angeles is centered near downtown and is known as Little Tokyo.

Is Japantown San Francisco worth visiting? ›

SF's Japantown is packed with incredible restaurants, bars, boutiques, and tons of places to see explore. San Francisco's Japantown is a significant historical district and a rare sight in the US. There are only 3 remaining Japantowns in the US and SF is home to the oldest and largest of them.

How late is Japantown open? ›

Re: Japantown opening hours? Generally the shops close by 7:00 PM; some 6:00PM. Grocery stores close at 7:00 PM, but some non-food related shops may have more extended hours until 8:00PM.

Where is the largest Japanese neighborhood in the world? ›

The largest of these foreign communities are in the Brazilian states of São Paulo and Paraná. There are also significant cohesive Japanese communities in the Philippines, Peru and in the American state of Hawaiʻi. Nevertheless, most emigrant Japanese are largely assimilated outside of Japan.

What is a Japanese American called? ›

It should be noted that for any given individual, the generational terms are not related to age. A Japanese American elder could be of any generation, and currently most are Nisei and Sansei. . A more recent contemporary term, Nikkei, has been used to refer to Japanese Americans as a whole.

Where do most Japanese Americans live? ›

Southern California has the largest Japanese American population in North America and the city of Gardena holds the densest Japanese American population in the 48 contiguous states.

Which US state speaks the most Japanese? ›

California has the highest number of Japanese groups, followed by Hawaii.

Is Tokyo smaller than New York? ›

Tokyo is the most populated metropolitan area in the world, but it's also much larger than New York City. Their population density 15,604 per square mile compared to our more stifling 27,578.

Where do most Americans live in Tokyo? ›

Best Places for Expats to Live in Tokyo
  1. Minato-ku. The majority of expats tend to congregate in Minato-ku ward in South Tokyo. ...
  2. Setagaya-ku. Setagaya-ku is the most populated of Tokyo's Central areas. ...
  3. Meguro-ku. Meguro-ku is another popular area. ...
  4. Yanesen. ...
  5. West Tokyo. ...
  6. Kasai. ...
  7. Shibuya-ku. ...
  8. Hon-Komagome.

Is Little Tokyo Chinese or Japanese? ›

Little Tokyo Historic District is a historic Japanese commercial district in downtown Los Angeles, California. Japanese immigrants settled the district in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Before World War II, Little Tokyo was the largest Japanese community in the United States.

What is the most beautiful Japanese street? ›

This guide to iconic streets in Tokyo will cover:
  • Denbouin-dori, Asakusa.
  • Kappabashi-dogu-gai, Asakusa & Ueno.
  • Ameya Yokocho, Ueno.
  • Chazawa-dori, Sangenjaya.
  • Akabanebashi, Minato.
  • Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Avenue, Minato.
  • Ginza-dori, Ginza.
  • Chuo-dori, Akihabara.
Dec 12, 2022

What is the No 1 tourist destination in Japan? ›

1. Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji is one of Japan's most famous tourist attractions and arguably one of the most impressive.

What is Tokyo Bay famous for? ›

A number of Japan's most important ports are located in Tokyo Bay. The Port of Yokohama, the Port of Chiba, the Port of Tokyo, the Port of Kawasaki, the Port of Yokosuka, the Port of Kisarazu, rank not only as the busiest ports in Japan, but also in the Asia-Pacific Region.


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